This story is wild. Grab some cafecito.
Two months ago, Voice of San Diego’s senior investigative reporter Will Huntsberry discovered that a nonprofit group staffing concession stands at Petco Park didn’t exist.
Still, it was staffing stands at the park and Snapdragon Stadium all thanks to a program that offers charities roughly 10 percent of concession proceeds in exchange for staffing. The group, known as Chula Vista Fast Pitch, had been working at Petco Park for nine years.
The money the group earned from the stands wasn’t going to charity. And this was all happening right under everyone’s noses. (If, you missed it, read the story here.)
But that Was Just the Beginning
Anyone who has ever been a part of a nonprofit, community group or involved in their kid’s softball team, know just how hard it is to get people to volunteer for stuff. So, if this group didn’t exist, then how was it getting people to volunteer their time to serve hot dogs, beer and popcorn for dozens of games?
The reason: The supposed volunteers were getting paid.
At least three presumed nonprofit groups (one was Chula Vista Fast Pitch) paid people low, under-the-table wages to work concessions at major San Diego venues. Huntsberry revealed in a new investigation that at least three charity groups operating at Petco Park, Snapdragon Stadium and North Island Credit Union Amphitheater in Chula Vista were doing this. Some of the groups had also previously worked at Sports Arena and the former Qualcomm Stadium.
He spoke to workers. One was a teen who made $200 over the course of four baseball games at Petco. Here’s what she told Huntsberry: “Pretty much someone brings you up [to the concession stand] and they tell you to come in and you work that day and you keep going, because they need you. They need anyone. There was no training ever.”
Others made $50 to $60 per game. One worker said his shifts lasted as long as 10 hours and he made $70.
Huntsberry spoke with industry insiders and lawyers about this shadow labor system. He also questioned the stadium and event venue operators about what’s going on at their concession stands.
Behind Voice: Big Investigation Energy
More Chisme to Start Your Week
- Scoop: Our MacKenzie Elmer reports that a trade deal is in the works between southern California’s major water agencies — which have not always been besties. The plan is to give up some Colorado River water to help restock Lake Mead. It’s all fascinating, and good chisme. Read it here.
- North County reporter Tigist Layne told the story of North County’s farmworkers and why some live in a homeless shelter in Carlsbad. There’s a lot of history behind this decision, but it’s rooted behind the lack of affordable housing. Read the feature here.
- ICYMI: We tapped former Voice editor Andrew Donohue to look at the sale of the Union-Tribune and what it means for local journalism. He was able to report what happened in the days after the sale and how reporters are feeling. It’s long, but it’s worth the read. Click here.
- There’s a new flag flying above San Diego Unified’s headquarters. Jakob McWhinney has the story behind it. Read it here.
Note from me: Thank you so much for reading Cup of Chisme. Sorry I didn’t send one last week, I was out with a cold. If you have any ideas or feedback for this newsletter, you can contact me via email at email@example.com.